Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State has declared that to fix Nigeria’s economy, necessary conditions for inclusive development must be identified.
Speaking at the second annual lecture of Freedom Online, an online newspaper on Thursday in Lagos, the governor declared that lack of investment in infrastructure in the past has led to where the country is today but said he was optimistic that President Muhammadu Buhari’s determination to curb corruption would help the economy to grow.
At the event were former Governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, former Governor of Abia State and Senator-elect, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, former Military Governor of Bayelsa State and former Police Affairs Minister, Navy Captain Caleb Olubolade (rtd), Presidential Spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina, Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland, Iba Gani Abiodun Adams, President of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), Mrs. Funke Egbemode, Prof. Akin Onigbinde, President of Theatre and Motion Pictures Association of Nigeria (TAMPAN) and popular actor, Otunba Bolaji Amusan (Mr. Latin) and others.
Also present were media chiefs, captains of industry, officials of Globacom, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dangote Group, United Bank for Africa (UBA), Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and others.
Theme of the lecture was “Fixing The Economy: Less Politics, More Substance”.
Fayemi, the Guest Speaker who was represented by Mr. Akin Oyebode (jnr), said: “The cost of not investing in infrastructure and human capital is usually painful, and in Nigeria’s case, is manifesting in an unemployment rate hovering above 40%. With two-thirds of our population under the age of 35, it is important to set the country on a path of sustainable economic development, if not for our sake, for generations after ours.
“This brings me to reason we are here, how to fix the Nigerian economy. This discussion must start by identifying the necessary conditions for inclusive economic development, which not only ensure macroeconomic growth indices improve, but also lifts people out of poverty and puts our citizens, especially young people in jobs. These conditions are clearly security, human capital development, infrastructure and a clear policy framework that encourages the investment of private capital.
‘No economy can develop without a healthy and competent workforce; therefore education and healthcare are critical social investments required to develop our economy.
“This is why we must continue to expand health insurance coverage and invest in healthcare facilities and professionals, to ensure we improve the quality of life in Nigeria, and as a result of this, develop a more productive workforce.
“We must also continue to invest in early school education to boost literacy, technical and vocational training to support our industrial needs, but most importantly, we must ensure our children have the right digital skills training, to make them competitive for the future of work.
“To attract the required investment into Nigeria, our economy must be competitive. I have already spoken about how improvements in the labour force will make Nigerian workers more competitive. However, we must support that with the necessary investments in infrastructure. This is why the ongoing investments in rail, power, ports and roads are absolutely necessary to ensure long term economic development. The work being done to develop an intermodal transport system around the Lagos Port, and planned development of both deep sea and inland ports in other parts of the country, are necessary requirements to boost international trade. If this is supported by extensive road and rail networks, then Nigeria would have significantly lowered the cost of moving people and goods, thereby making our economy competitive and more attractive for investments”.
Kalu, the chairman of the event, advised political leaders to put issues of the 2019 elections behind them and focus on issues of governance.
The former governor pointed out that the purpose of elections was to elect leaders to make positive changes in the society and not to play politics for eternity.
Kalu said now that elections were over, the people expected their leaders to face the real issues of governance to improve their lot.
He said it was surprising that some politicians were already talking about 2023, rather than commence earnest work to justify the mandate given to them in the last election.
Kalu said though politics and governance were almost inseparable, the latter was more important than the former.
”I want to advise our political leaders that elections are gone, we should now think about governance.
”Nigerian politicians have forgotten about governance and are still talking about politics after the elections.
”Some people are already talking about 2023 even when they have not done anything about the mandate they got in the last election .
”There is time for everything .There is time for politics and there is time for governance.
“This is the time for governance and that is what we should focus on as political leaders across parties,” he said.
Kalu said that the coming of President Muhammadu Buhari was one good thing that had happened to the country, as he was committed to service to the people.
He urged political leaders to emulate the president and dedicate themselves to the service of the people.
On the economy, the former governor said there was the need to diversify and expand it to achieve growth and sustainable development.
He said there was the need for government to allow the private sector to control most businesses, as they had the expertise to do so and create jobs.
”We need to expand the economy for growth, and I have always argued that we need to remove every business from government for better economic performance.
”It is better for Aliko Dangote to own everything than government owing a business.
”It is not possible for government to do policy formulation and do policy implementation at the same time, so businesses are better left with the private sector,” he said.
Kalu said there was an urgent need for the country to practice true fiscal restructuring to address the myriads of challenges facing the country.
He commended Freedom Online for organising the lecture, saying the programme was a platform for discourse on issues of development.
The former governor particularly commended the publisher of Freedom Online, Gabriel Akinadewo, for what he had achieved within a few years of starting the online news medium.
Kalu said Akinadewo, with the development focus of the medium, was no doubt a shinning light in journalism.
While speaking as the Special Guest of Honour, Daniel faulted the kind of democracy practised in Nigeria as a system that cannot bring about the best in all spheres of our national interest.
He lamented that Nigeria is still operating a system that has been in practice since 1960 without a change which, he opined, cannot bring about any meaningful development.
According to him, no nation can thrive on a static ideology, especially in this modern age with its attendant global evolution in all indices of development. That is why our democratic system has to be reviewed by way of restructuring or else it will give more room for constitutional crisis, inequity, mediocrity, injustice and corruption.
“With the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the dropping of the Iron Curtain, the former governor said, doors were closed against Communism and Socialism as political ideologies opening a new vista in the socio-political economy of the respective countries which paid off as their economies rose tremendously. Even China, he stated, has joined the fray and is now about the biggest economy in the world.
“What I am saying in essence is that if we continue to practise democracy without a drastic change, it cannot work. It will only make people poorer and hopeless. This is why the progressive minded politicians like myself and political pundits are clamouring for restructuring which will address the challenges facing us as a nation and proffer meaningful solutions for the betterment of the people.
“On his retirement from partisan politics, he stressed that he thought it is better to leave the stage early enough for the younger generation to come up with fresh ideas and contribute their own quota towards developing the nation instead of the older ones sitting tight and counting years which most African leaders have been accused.
He, however, quipped that he thought he should be praised for this bold step but was surprised when people reacted saying he shouldn’t go into retirement that soon.
Adesina, the Guest of Honour, defended the economic policies of the Muhammadu Buhari administration, saying despite the good work the administration is doing, members of the opposition have decided not to see anything good in government.
The Keynote Speaker, Prof. Akin Onighinde, declared that those in government must say the truth every time for Nigerians to believe them.
Earlier, Akinadewo, in his welcome address, declared that government officials should stop playing politics with development.
Telecommunications giant, Glo Nigeria, bagged the Telecommunications Company of the Year (2018) award while NIMASA, NPA, UBA, Dangote Group and some other organisations were recognised for outstanding service by the online medium at the lecture.